Ancient lakeside settlement older than the PYRAMIDS uncovered on new housing estate

An ancient lakeside settlement older than the Pyramids has been uncovered on a new housing estate.

Radiocarbon testing carried out on part of a wooden building set into the bed of what was once Monmouth’s prehistoric lake has concluded that it dates from as long ago as 2,917BC.

That is 2,000 years older than the only other lake settlement known in England and Wales.

The carbon dating exercise also puts the building at around 300 years older than the Pyramids in Egypt.

An artists impression of how the crannog would have looked

The timber, which was skilfully worked with a stone axe to form the bottom of a stilt supporting a structure in the lake, was unearthed during the digging of house foundations in Monmouth.

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The date of the timber is 4,867 years before “the present”, as counted in archaeological terms from 1950.

That was during the Neolithic or New Stone Age, before the invention of metalworking, and when the Rockfield Estate, like most of Monmouth, was under a post-glacial lake which had formed at the end of the Ice Age, some 11,000 years ago.

An example of a crannog

The lake is thought to have survived until the first millennium BC, probably not long before the Romans arrived.

MORE: Ancient axes, a Bronze Age ring, silver coins and Roman pins unearthed by Welsh metal detector fans

The remains were so far out from the shore of the lake that the post has to be part of a building set on poles – called a crannog.

Crannogs are defended wooden structures found in Ireland and Scotland and date from the Stone Age onwards – the only one known in England and Wales previously is at Llangors, near Brecon.

An oak post from the ancient settlement

They are thought to have been a mark of power and status – the one at Llangors being claimed as a royal residence of the Dark Age King of Brycheiniog.

The timber was discovered by Martin Tuck of the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust.

This discovery is to feature in the latest edition of veteran archaeologist Stephen Clarke’s The Lost Lake.

An example of a crannog at Llangors

Mr Clarke, who founded Monmouth Archaeology and has dug in the area for more than half a century, said: “This is surely one of the most stunning of prehistoric discoveries.

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“An exceptional feature is that the construction was based on three massive parallel ‘sleeper beams’ – timbers roughly hewn from complete trees set in the ground horizontally.

“One of these timbers is a metre wide and all of them seem to have been from full-grown trees.

An oak post from the excavation

“Most of the known long houses were based on posts.

“Another extraordinary aspect of the discovery is that it was built on top of a prehistoric ‘burnt mound’.

“This is a concentration of thousands of ‘pot boiler’ stones and pebbles which had been burned in a fire and used to boil water when dropped into a pot or water-filled clay pit.

The housing estate where the discovery was made

“There were four of these burnt mounds on different levels of the site, demonstrating that there were successive occupations here over hundreds or thousands of years,” he added.

Mr Clarke and his team say they established that a lake 4km long existed in the area, covering most of what is now the town of Monmouth.

Mr Clarke said: “We believe the people who built the boats would have had access to the sea, and that the boats they built would have enabled them to make long voyages, across the Channel and over to northern Europe.”

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